Many of us think of medical testing ordered by our doctor as something to fear because it often isn’t ordered in conventional medicine offices unless the doctor fears something is wrong. Conventional medicine also tends to have a relatively narrow range of testing they will order on a patient, at least at a primary care doctor. What’s more, many of those tests are designed to show only large departures from normal- you either do or don’t have a condition- the reference ranges are designed to quickly pick out those that meet the threshold to be treated by the standard of care and for prescription drugs. That’s not to say those tests are not helpful, they literally can be lifesavers. Primary care doctors are overwhelmed, seeing huge numbers of patients per day, or worse- not seeing them, and just supervising the PAs who do see them. They can’t be expected to expand their practices to include functional medicine testing, expand their range of analysis in diagnosis, or consider treatments that don’t include a standard prescription. For that matter, it might be hard to find a doctor that will listen to you for more than 10 minutes to help figure out why you feel the way you do. With consolidation into practice groups controlled by hospitals with their centralized call centers, it might be hard to get in to see a practitioner at all! As time goes on, this consolidation and drive for efficiency (for them- not you) will likely make matters worse, and even though prevention rather than cure has been demonstrated to be more effective and efficient time after time, the consolidated health clinics continue to turn away from prevention and functional medicine.
So what’s the alternative? Your best bet is a functional and integrated medical center like Progressive Medical Center in Atlanta. Progressive is large enough to offer full-service medical care, but its focus on functional and integrative medicine means that not only do you get to see primary care MDs, but those doctors are also part of a team that includes Naturopathic Doctors, Nutritionists, Dieticians, Nurse Practitioners, Chiropractors, and experts in IV, sauna, chelation, fitness, and esthetics. Functional medicine takes the best of the research and science-based practice of medicine, and instead of focusing just on “curing” a particular ailment, it focuses on the whole person, prevention, emphasizing mechanisms that support the body’s own healing potential, and intervenes with supplements, medicines, and therapies where necessary. One major benefit of functional and integrative medicine is that patients are not rushed through a 15-20 minute appointment by various assistants with no chance to really talk to a doctor- who will listen. Appointments are structured to allow doctors and other practitioners to HEAR the patient to start and get to the roots of a person’s health and any problems they may be facing. You’ll avoid the endless call centers, be actually able to reach the office, have time enough to tell the story of your health journey and have a team that listens so as to put together a strategy so that you can live your healthiest life.
Why such an emphasis on a person’s own health story? Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Diagnosis is one of the most difficult parts of medicine to get right- and get it wrong at your (and especially the patients’!) peril. Everyone is different- different genetics, different exposures, different stressors, and different lifestyles. Particularly when you have symptoms that are difficult to pinpoint like fatigue, a rash, brain fog, gut troubles, lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, and other symptoms that can have multiple causes, it takes a much closer examination of the specifics of the patient to get anywhere close to a resolution. Conventional medicine primary care doctors are trying to find the causes in complex cases with their hands tied behind their backs. They are hobbled by the lack of appointment time to take a true case history and hear a patient’s story, they are hobbled by their inability to look deeper into each patient’s specifics by the sheer number of patients they each must see, they are hobbled by their lack of time to pursue medical knowledge outside their heavy caseload, and they are hobbled by the narrow range of testing and treatment options that many have learned to use, or are even forced to use by their hospital groups. Those same tests leave out many analytes that would help your health story be told, and utilize reference ranges that may leave people out who are still experiencing symptoms.
So what is functional medicine testing, and why is it a useful component of the search for your health story? Functional medicine testing includes a wide range of tests that test for conditions that are not as often tested for in a conventional doctor’s office, or with expanded reference ranges and additional analytes than those on tests that might be used by conventional medicine. An example of functional medicine testing includes food allergy and sensitivity panels that test for IgG, IgG4, and C3d instead of just IgE reactions to give a more complete picture of the range of allergic responses. Others would include panels for oxidative stress, intestinal barrier assessment to determine leaky gut, oxidized LDL as a better assessment of heart function and cholesterol, advanced adrenal stress tests, thyroid testing that includes markers like reverse T3 for a better indication of thyroid function, and reference ranges that include subcritical errors in organs.
These tests and many others are available from your functional medicine practitioner and can paint a much more complete picture of your health. Functional medicine testing is more expansive, more inclusive, and should be considered the gold standard of testing. The only way that you can make changes to better your health is to be armed with the knowledge of what those changes should be. Functional medicine testing can provide that data and help you become a better you. Contact Progressive Medical Center today to start rethinking your health today!